Top 5 Wednesdays: Books You Want to Read Before the End of the Year

Last week, I posted about 10 books that I intended to read in the summer (found here), so I was a little hesitant to post again so soon about the books I’m still looking forward to reading. I also know that between Top 10 Tuesdays and Top 5 Wednesdays, there are likely to be several more topics related to my TBR for this year, so I wanted to avoid being too repetitive. I find seasonal TBRs somewhat helpful although I don’t necessarily stick to them. My winter TBR included 4 books for January and February of this year in addition to several more for last December, and I read all 4 of those by the middle of February. My spring TBR was also very successful. I read 8 out of the 10 books I picked, and still intend to read the other two when they come through from the library. My summer TBR consists of many of the books currently in my massive library stack, which is by far the biggest I’ve ever had. I’ve completely stocked up because my local branch is closed as of the end of this week, and I didn’t want to lose my holds. For this post, I decided to mention 5 more books that I’m hoping to get to this summer!

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and the official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

31180248This was one of the books I was most looking forward to this year, but I also wasn’t sure I’d be able to squeeze it in. For most of the year, it wasn’t even part of my plan but just a couple of weeks ago, I rearranged things to make room for another series,  which opened up a spot for this one as well. I know I could always treat it as a side read, but I have so many books planned for this year that I don’t think I could fit in any extras. This book follows Leah, who is bisexual and coming to terms with having feelings for one of her friends, while also dealing with her mother’s remarriage and reaching the end of high school. I read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda in February 2016 and it was one of my favourites of that year. Unfortunately, it’s been so long that I don’t remember much of the characters and I really don’t remember Leah herself very well at all. I’m sure I can pick it up again pretty easily, but I may need to at least watch the Love, Simon movie before I read this one.

2) The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

7784648I’m purposely including this one because I’m hoping it will keep me motivated to actually read it. I chose this book for a prompt requiring a book set in either South America or Africa. This book is set in Sierra Leone which has been devastated by a civil war, and focuses on a surgeon and a dying patient at a hospital whose lives are interconnected. I chose this book because it had been on my TBR for about a year and a half, but I kept putting off reading it because it seemed quite lengthy (at almost 500 pages) and possibly dense. This book has received some excellent reviews but it’s become that one book I have every year that interests me at first, and the more I delay reading it, the more likely I become to postpone it indefinitely. I checked it out from the library to try and motivate myself to actually pick it up. It’s not necessarily a topic that interests me very much, but it’s good to go a bit outside my comfort zone sometimes.

3) Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

25062038I listed this book last year as one of my most anticipated for the second half of 2017, but I knew even then that I wouldn’t get to it until 2018. This book focuses on a girl named Suzette who goes home to support her brother Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Suzette soon discovers that the girl she has feelings for happens to be the same girl that her brother is in love with. I love to see books that focus on the siblings or family members of the person who has a mental illness, since that is a perspective that is often overlooked. Most of the YA books that I’ve read have been from the perspective of the person who is struggling with the mental health condition themselves, and I think it’s so important to have other perspectives. It seems that this book has been a little overlooked among all the other amazing YA releases that have come out recently, but it has received some amazing reviews from several of the reviewers I follow on Goodreads. I’m really looking forward to reading this.

4) Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany B. Jackson

35068534I read Tiffany B. Jackson’s debut Allegedly around this time last year. Ironically enough, I had a terrible cold when I read that one, and I’m just getting over a terrible cold again, with this book one of the next in line in my library stack. This book is about a girl named Claudia whose best friend Monday has gone missing, and she decides to investigate and try to find out what really happened to Monday. To be honest, I rarely read YA mystery/thrillers, but I loved Tiffany B. Jackson’s writing in Allegedly and wanted to give her latest book a chance. According to many of the reviews, part of the intent of this book is to take on the important topic of girls of colour who  go missing, which is definitely a relevant and timely story. Both of Tiffany B. Jackson’s books so far have taken on great and relatively unique topics, and I’m looking forward to trying this one as well. I’m a little worried since the reviews have been pretty mixed, although the average Goodreads rating is quite high so far.

5) I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

29010395I actually can’t remember how I first discovered this book, but I’m pretty sure it was from a list of upcoming releases for the second half of 2017. This book is a YA contemporary about a girl named Julia, who has lost her sister, Olga in an accident. Julia is left with all the pressure of trying to live up to her “perfect” sister and struggling with her own grief as well as her parents’ grief. Julia soon discovers that Olga may not have been as perfect as everyone believed, and is determined to find out who her sister really was. I have quite a few books on my TBR that use the “dead sibling” trope or the “not who I thought they were” trope (whatever that is really called?), but this one still intrigues me. I chose it for a prompt requiring a coming of age novel, and it definitely seems like a perfect fit. Losing a loved one is something that tends to make people come of age very quickly, as does learning to see the people in your life more realistically. It sounds like a very interesting story, and I’m looking forward to trying it.


Top 10 Tuesdays: Series that I’ve Put on Hold

Considering I’ve dubbed my reading challenges this year “the year of series,” it seems fitting that this week’s prompt is all about series we haven’t finished yet. Technically, the prompt specifies series that we have DNF’d, but I don’t have very many of those. Over the past couple of years, I have started so many (too many?) new series, and it’s been hard to keep up! As I mentioned back in January, I’ve picked 12 series that I was committed to finishing off this year. As of right now, I have already fully finished 4 of them, met my goals for 2 more (I’ll explain further below), and I have even bought full sets of several others. I’m still trying to figure out how to best budget my time considering how lengthy some of these books are, but I’m looking forward to reading them! Unfortunately, these 12 series are not the only ones I had in progress, and naturally some had to fall by the wayside a bit. There are also several more that I would love to start. It looks like next year may be a second “year of series.” The series listed here are generally ones that I intend to finish, but they became lower priority compared to others that I really wanted to read.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) The Selection Series by Keira Cass

23502345This series was one of the 12 that I committed to finishing this year, with the condition that I was only planning on completing the original trilogy. As far as I could tell, the fourth and fifth books followed a different main character, so I decided to treat it as a related-but-separate series. This series is about a girl named America Singer who is part of a Bachelor-style competition to be chosen to be Prince Maxon’s bride and future Queen. The first three books were light and fun to read, although definitely not the best books I’ve ever read. I enjoyed them enough to want to continue the series, but it’s definitely one that I can put on the backburner for a while, especially when the remaining books follow different characters. I’ve never been interested in The Bachelor at all, but I found the competition and the challenges the girls had to go through surprisingly interesting. The characters became a little irritating as the story progressed, but I had enough fun with it that I would still like to eventually finish it off.

2) The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi

28960212This is the other series I mentioned above that I committed to finishing, before realizing that there were more books coming. I’m not entirely sure how that happened because I’m pretty sure I knew about Restore Me pretty early on, but when I set my goals for the year, I only decided to read up to the third book in this series, so I’ve technically reached that goal. Two more books have also been announced, although neither have titles or much detail just yet. I’m curious to see if the remaining books will continue with the same characters, or if they will take the same route as The Selection and introduce some new ones. This series is a YA dystopian about a girl named Juliette, who has been isolated for most of her life due to her ability to inflict pain with her touch. Like most books in this genre, this series focuses on a rebellion against a corrupt government, and of course a love triangle. I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected, and I am definitely planning on continuing it.

3) The Caster Chronicles by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

13537830I wanted to read this series after I saw the movie version of Beautiful Creatures, and unexpectedly loved it! I read the first book back in 2016, and I really enjoyed it. The series is about a teenage boy named Ethan Wate who lives in Gatlin, a small Southern town, where he meets Lena Duchannes and through her, discovers a hidden supernatural world in his hometown. The first book was a little slow-paced, and although I liked it, I have seen a lot of poor reviews for the rest of the series. I would love to give it a chance and see for myself since I did enjoy it, but the reviews have made me a little hesitant. It doesn’t help that the further away I get from reading the first book, the less I remember of it so it might be tricky to jump back into the series but I’m also not that interested in re-reading the first one again when I have so many other series on the go.

4) The Program Series by Suzanne Young

11366397I read the first book in this series around the same time as Beautiful Creatures, and I really enjoyed it. This book is another YA dystopian, set in a world where depression has become an epidemic and anyone showing signs is enrolled in The Program as “treatment.” When they return, they are no longer depressed, but they don’t have any of their memories either. The first book followed a teenage girl named Sloane who is trying to hide her growing depression to avoid being sent to The Program. I went into this book not expecting too much, and I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. This was one of those series that just completely fell by the wayside as others took greater priority, and it didn’t help that the series has now expanded to 6 books, which is quite the commitment! I also got a little confused since it looked like the same characters are only around for 2 books before switching to new ones, and I’m not entirely sure if or how everyone connects. I have 2 other lengthy series in mind for next year already, so I’m not sure if this one will make it to the top of my priority list yet.

5) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and 6) The Wicked and the Divine by Kieron Gillen

1570430723093359I’m grouping these two together because my reasoning behind it is very similar. I picked up the first volume of both of these series about a year ago, mostly because I had seen a lot of hype surrounding them. Saga is a fantasy/sci-fi series about a married couple who are from two sides of a long-standing war between alien races, fleeing for their lives and that of their newborn daughter, Hazel. The Wicked and the Divine follows a teenage girl who encounters the Panthenon, a group of 12 gods who have been reincarnated as humans, and treated a celebrities. Both series got off to amazing starts, but I found them a little confusing to follow. It may have been because I was a bit rushed when I read them, since I read both during trips to the library while at work where I only had an hour, and my attention was obviously divided by focusing on my responsibilities. I think I would have to start over if I was to take on either of these series again since I literally remember nothing of the storyline, but I thought both books were incredible and creative. They are both series that I would theoretically love to continue, but don’t have any active plans to take them on either.

7) Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu

29396738I think this is the one series on this list that I am on the fence about finishing. I read the first book last year for a prompt requiring a steampunk book, although I’m not entirely sure how well it fit. The art style was definitely steampunk, but I think I could have picked something that fit the genre a bit better. This book is set in an alternate version of Asia, where a war occurred between humans and arcanics. The main character, Maika Halfwolf, is a young survivor of this war who pretends to be a slave to get closer to her targets, and ends up stealing a mask fragment that causes a dark energy to take root inside her and fight for control of her. I thought the artwork was incredible, and the characters were interesting, but I found the plot very confusing and hard to follow. We are thrown straight in to a very complex world with little context. This isn’t such a problem for me in most books, but I find it harder to manage in graphic novels since there is  not necessarily as much room for world-building. The main reason that I’m not sure I want to continue is because I found the story so hard to follow, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to pick it back up.

8) Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson

25088104I am very slowly making progress on this series, and not through any fault of its own. Lumberjanes is a series of graphic novels that follows a group of female best friends during their adventures at summer camp, where they also face all kinds of supernatural creatures and strange events. This series is actually very quick to read and a lot of fun, but it ends up being very low priority for me. I have only read the first two books so far, and even those were read somewhere around a year apart. What’s great about this series is that it is pretty easy to put down and then come back to much later without really missing anything. One of the main reasons that I’ve been a bit hesitant to continue is because I saw that Noelle Stevenson is no longer the author for the later volumes. From Volume 6: Sink or Swim on, they are written by Shannon Watters, and while I’m sure they are still great, I’m always a bit worried when a new person takes over a pre-existing series. I can’t imagine this series will change very much, but it is still far from the top of my list.

9) The Noughts and Crosses series by Malorie Blackman

714902To be honest, the main reason I put this one on hold is because it was hard for me to get copies of the books. This series is about a Cross girl named Sephy who falls in love with her childhood best friend, Callum who is a Nought. It is set in a world where the dark-skinned Crosses are the ruling class, and the “colourless” Crosses are their slaves. I thought the first book in the series was excellent, although I was not such a fan of how certain scenes were basically ripped straight from the history textbooks but with the races swapped. I understand what the author was trying to show, but it was odd to me to see so many reviews comment about how unique and original the story was, when I recognized so many events from history class. However, I really liked the way the story and the characters developed by the end of the first book, and I looked forward to reading the rest. When I picked up the second book last year (after having to put in a request with the library to buy it), I was disappointed to find that there were scenes that referred to very specific events from a “between the numbers” book that I hadn’t read. These books are written by a British author, and are a bit hard for me to find here in Canada. I’ve generally seen the first three in stores or online, but never the fourth book and it bothered me not to be able to get the complete set. The books are also often out of stock or very expensive, so I haven’t been very motivated to buy them to finish reading the series either, although I did enjoy it.

10) The Asylum series by Madeleine Roux

13597728I started this series last year, and was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the first book! I’m usually a huge coward when it comes to scary stories of any kind, and although this one creeped me out, it was very interesting. I picked it up in the first place because it reminded me a bit of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. This book is about a teenage boy named Dan Crawford who attends a summer college prep program, where he learns that his dorm is a former sanatorium for the criminally insane. Dan and his new friends decide to explore the building and uncover strange coincidences that link him to the asylum’s past, all while strange and creepy things begin happening around them. I thought the “found” photos contributed to the creep-factor of this story and definitely gave a stronger sense of the horrors of how people with mental illnesses were treated in the past. There were a couple of plot holes that I found a little annoying, but I was still very interested in continuing the series. I’ve put it off for now because I couldn’t easily fit it into any of my reading challenge categories after I’d added in all the other series I wanted to read more, but I would like to finish it off at some point.


Stacking the Shelves (#8)

It looks like I did slightly better this month with keeping new additions to my TBR somewhat under control. I added a total of 53 books since the start of June, which is quite a bit less than the 70 or so I added last month. My TBR is currently up to 2150 books! The vast majority of the books I added this month are new and upcoming releases, so they are not even books that I’m likely to get to for a while but I added them anyway so I can remember that I wanted to read them. A lot of the books I added are also newer books from authors that I’ve previously read and enjoyed, so I would probably inevitably try their new books anyway. There are quite a few on here that I’m very excited for!

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme all about the books we are adding to our shelves each week. It is hosted by TyngaReviewsand ReadingReality

1) The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

35842338I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of mermaid stories since I have a bit of a weird aversion to anything set at sea, but this book looks really good! I’m sure the cover art was part of the initial appeal. This book is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, set off the Irish coast. It focuses on a mermaid named Gaia who is drawn to a human boy, and wants to escape her controlling father. It definitely sounds very similar to The Little Mermaid, but I’ve also seen it listed as a feminist retelling, which seems like an interesting angle. To be honest, a feminist perspective is not really something I look for when choosing my books, but I’m definitely interested in seeing how that would work for this kind of story. The book just came out at the beginning of May, so it hasn’t received very many reviews yet. I actually didn’t even realize that this book was written by the same author as Asking For It, which I’ve had on my TBR for a while but never read. I never would have guessed that it was the same author since the stories and genres are so different, but I will have to try at least one of her books at some point!

2) What Should Be Wild by Julia Fine

35068762Is it bad that I have absolutely no memory of adding this to my list? The book is about a girl named Maisie Cothay who is born with the power to kill or resurrect with her touch, and spends her life isolated in her family’s manor by a mysterious forest. Maisie’s father warns her not to go into the woods, but does not tell her it is because so many of her female ancestors have vanished into it, never to be seen again. When her father disappears, Maisie enters the woods for the first time, and finally stars to understand her powers. This is another book that came out in early May of this year, and it is the author’s debut book. I can’t for the life of me remember how I found it or what about it first caught my interest, but now that I’ve seen the synopsis again I’m very interested. I feel like this is the kind of book that will sit on my TBR for quite a while because I will keep forgetting that it’s there, but I don’t want to remove it either since it sounds so good.

3) Stuck With You by Carla Burgess

34643836I blame The Hating Game for this one. I’d never been too interested in reading adult contemporary romances, but ever since reading and loving The Hating Game last year, I’ve been a lot more open to them. I’ve never actually had anything against the genre per se, I’m just rarely in the mood for it. This book is about a woman named Elena who finds herself stuck in the elevator with her childhood crush, Daniel, while at the supermarket. It sounds like such a cute and fun story. I looked at the preview available on Goodreads, and it seems great. Of course, it’s hard to tell from just a few pages but it’s definitely a good sign that it didn’t immediately put me off either. As far as I can tell from Goodreads though, this is only available for Kindle which will be a problem for me since I don’t have a Kindle or any other kind of e-reader, nor do I particularly want one. For some reason, it is much harder for me to read off a screen for longer periods than it is to read off the page.

4) Slayer by Kiersten White

34723130I haven’t read anything by Kiersten White yet, but that didn’t stop me from adding this to my TBR as soon as I saw that it was set in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer universe, I knew I had to read it. Buffy is my favourite TV show, and I very recently re-watched all 7 seasons (and I’m making my way through Angel too, although that seems to have stalled a bit now that it’s not on Netflix anymore). This book follows a girl named Nina who was raised at the Watcher’s Academy, a boarding school that teaches students to be guides for Slayers. When Nina is chosen to become a Slayer herself, she is forced to deal with all the responsibilities that come along with her newfound powers. Honestly, the fact that this has anything to do with Buffy is enough to get my interest, and I really hope it is done well! Part of the appeal of Buffy for me is how it handles these kinds of complex topics about power and how being the Slayer affected Buffy’s life. I can’t wait to read this one!

5) Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

36315374This is another case of an author that I’ve already wanted to read, but never got around to. I’ve had Jennifer Hillier’s Creep on my TBR since January 2017, but never picked it up. I didn’t even realize that this book was by the same author until now. Jar of Hearts is about three best friends, Angela, Georgina and Kaiser. At age 16, Angela disappears, and her body is found years later in the woods near Georgina’s childhood home. Kaiser, now a detective, uncovers the truth — that Angela was killed by serial killer Calvin James, who also happens to be Georgina’s first love. Although they think they know the truth about what happened the night Angela died, what really happened starts to catch up with them, especially when new bodies are found that were killed the exact same way that Angela was. None of this is spoilers, since it is all revealed in the Goodreads synopsis, but it sounds amazing! It does seem a little strange that the synopsis offered so much information, so I’m curious to see what else happens.

6) Sorority by Genevieve Sly Crane

36374015On the other hand, this book’s synopsis seems incredibly vague. This book is about a girl named Margot, a sorority sister who died in the house, with chapters told from the perspectives of the women around her who were affected by her death. This is another book that has only been out since early May of this year, and it hasn’t garnered very many reviews yet. The reviews that have come in so far seem very mixed, with many focusing on the fact that this is a relatively short book at just under 300 pages, and that it reads more like a collection of short stories than one complete book. I added it to my TBR because it was a setting that I can’t remember ever reading about before, and because it seemed to be a book that focuses primarily on character dynamics. I did not go to a school that had official sororities, and even if they had, I would not have been interested at all in joining one. While I’m sure this book is nowhere near the typical experience, it seems interesting to have a mystery/thriller in this kind of setting (although, confusingly enough, some of the reviews have commented that it is not really a mystery or thriller at all).

7) The Lido by Libby Page

34709995I’ve seen this book come up a few times on my Goodreads page over the past month or so. It is about a woman named Kate who works for a local paper in Brixton, covering small stories. When she is assigned to write about the closing of the local lido, she meets 86-year-old Rosemary, who has swum there daily since it first opened. Kate begins to dive into the lido’s history and pieces together the story of both the pool and of Rosemary herself, leading to a friendship between the women as they fight to convince the community to keep the lido open. This is another relatively recent release, which may explain why I’ve suddenly started to see it everywhere. It was released on April 19 of this year, and it seems like such a great story. It is not necessarily the kind of book I would usually pick up, but the more I think about the synopsis, the more interesting it seems. I’m pretty sure this one came up as a recommendation because I’ve just finished The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which also features a younger reporter delving into the life of an older woman, but these sound like very different stories.

8) Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

35230429Of all the books I’ve added to my list recently, this may be the one I’m most excited for aside from Slayer. I’ve had two of Robyn Schneider’s other books on my TBR since 2015, but haven’t picked either of them up yet. I definitely need to start working on some of my “backlist” books — maybe I’ll incorporate that into my reading challenges a bit more next year. In any case, this book immediately caught my attention because the premise seemed so unique. It is about a girl named Rose whose brother Logan is stuck as a 15-year-old ghost. When Rose crosses paths with Jamie Aldridge, she finds herself drawn back into her old life and struggles with choosing between moving forward with her life, or continuing to hold on to her brother. I have read many YA books that deal with grief and moving on, and to be honest, I was getting a little tired of the “dead sibling” trope, but this one seems to have put a unique spin on it with having her brother appear as a ghost. Looks like I will finally have to start prioritizing Robyn Schneider’s books.

9) The Ever After by Sarah Pekannen

36373613I’ve only read one of Sarah Pekannen’s books so far, but I have several more of them on my TBR. This book has been tagged as a domestic drama that is good for fans of Big Little Lies, which I loved! This book is about a woman named Josie who is happily married to Frank, and believes she is lucky to have such a great marriage — until she borrows Frank’s phone and finds a devastating message. The book follows Josie as she looks back on her marriage, and also pushes forward to uncover the extent of her husband’s secret. It seems like a fairly predictable story. Without even opening the book, I’m pretty sure I know what her husband’s secret is, but I’m still interested in seeing how the story plays out. I highly doubt it can live up to Big Little Lies, but hopefully it will at least come close. I tend to love character-driven books so I’m hoping this one has strong enough characters to keep the story interesting even if it is a bit predictable.

10) Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

36388243There definitely seems to be a trend toward blue covers with the books I added this month! I was actually a little on the fence about this one since the synopsis was so vague, but it was recommended for fans of Paula Hawkins, Ruth Ware, and Shari Lapena, and I’ve enjoyed books by all of those authors. This book is a thriller that just came out on June 5, about a documentary filmmaker named Erin who is on honeymoon with her new husband Mark. While scuba diving, they find something in the water, and have to decide whether they will speak out about it, or keep it a secret. Part of the reason I was on the fence about this one is because I have no idea what they possibly could have discovered. I would have assumed they uncovered a death, but the bits and pieces I’ve seen in reviews makes it seem like it’s something bigger than that. I’m definitely curious to read this one and find out.

11) Smothered by Autumn Chiklis

36104544I think this book is more along the lines of what I thought the “new adult” genre would be — young adults trying to figure out how to manage their own lives. In this book, Eloise (Lou) Hansen has just graduated from university, and has to move back into her childhood bedroom. Lou has a plan to find a job and get out of there as soon as possible, but her mother Shelly is thrilled to have her back home and determined to keep her there as long as possible. Part of the appeal of this book s that it is told in a mixed media format, including texts, emails, job applications, and much more. I really love the premise of the book because I think it is so realistic for people Lou’s age, at least in my area. It is so hard to find affordable housing, especially if you are fresh out of school and haven’t yet found a job. I’m interested to see the relationship between Lou and her mother, and I think it will cause some very interesting dynamics to have an adult used to living on her own at school move back in with her parents.

12) Time Bomb by Joelle Charbonneau

35721258Once again, this is an author who has technically been on my TBR for years, without me realizing it. I added Need to my TBR in 2015 and never picked it up, and I didn’t even know that this was by the same author. Time Bomb is about a group of very different students who are trapped together in a school that has been affected by a bombing. The students soon learn that someone inside the school is the bomber, they try to uncover who among them is responsible. I’ve read a few books that deal with school violence, but I don’t remember reading any that deal with bomb scares or actual bombs. The book alternates perspectives between the six main characters, who from the synopsis sound a bit like the usual teen stereotypes so it will be interesting to see how the author develops them.  The reviews for this one have been extremely mixed so far, which is a little concerning, but it still interests me enough to give it a fair try.

13) The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck

36390001For someone who tends not to really like sea/water-themed books, I seem to have added quite a few of them to my TBR lately.  This book is about Dr. Maggie Maguire, a woman who specializes in the science of happiness, who finds herself struggling with a bad breakup. Her friends book her as a guest speaker on a cruise to teach others about happiness, and when a guest there tries to argue that women can never be happy, Maggie sets out to prove him wrong. This seems like another book that could be a lot of fun to read. Although I don’t read them often, I do love a good romantic comedy. In this case, I actually like the cruise ship angle since that seems a bit different from other romances I’ve read or added to my TBR. It seems like the kind of book I would need to be in the right mood to read, but one that I might really enjoy.

14) Campaign Widows by Aimee Agresti

36476537The political theme of this one is definitely something outside my comfort zone, but it is also what drew me to this book in the first place. This book is about a woman named Cady who has moved to a new city with a new job and new fiance. When her fiance starts to work on the upcoming presidential election, Cady finds herself involved with the other campaign widows — women whose husbands or partners are heavily involved in the political campaign. Part of what interests me about this book is it seems to be more of a “behind-the-scenes” kind of story about the women behind the political candidates and their staff. The focus seems to be on Cady and her friendships with the other women, and not on the politics. I’ve been very interested in stories about these kinds of friendship dynamics (mostly playground politics, as my last Stacking the Shelves seems to show), and setting this amidst a political campaign definitely seems like a unique backdrop.

15) Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

34807717It was definitely the cover art that first drew me to this book, since it looks so cute! This book is about a boy named Ethan whose father is a comic artist, who gets stuck after the family is struck with tragedy. Ethan is trying to work on a graphic novel project for school, despite his inability to draw, and is surprised when an ink-blot creation comes out of his father’s sketchbook one night. This book is not due out until September of this year, so there is not much more information about the story yet. I read Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel last year, which was about a family who raised a baby chimp as a “sibling” to their son as part of an anthropology experiment, so I know his books are generally quite creative. This is a middle grade book, which is a little outside my comfort zone, but I’m willing to give it a chance when it finally comes out.

16) The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir

34503571I added this book to my list just yesterday after seeing it mentioned on a YouTube video about new and upcoming releases. This book seems to be loosely based on the Duggar family of 19 Kids and Counting. The main character Essie is the youngest child of an extremely religious reality TV family. When Essie gets pregnant, her mother is forced to consult with the show’s producers to help figure out how to handle it. At the same time, Essie starts to get involved with Rourke, a senior at her school with his own secrets, and enlists a reporter named Liberty to be in charge of the media coverage of the relationship. I’m not really a fan of the Duggars although I watch their show occasionally. I have only read one other book about a teenager trying to break away from a family that was religious like theirs, and this one seems to take it a step further by including the reality TV angle as well. This book has only just come out, but it sounds very interesting!




Top 5 Wednesdays: LGBTQ+ Books that Don’t Feature Cis M/M Relationships

I’m honestly starting to get a little confused with all the terminology relating to the different genders and sexual orientations, so it took me a little while to understand what this week’s prompt was actually about. This week’s prompt is for books that feature LGBTQ+ characters or relationships that are not cis men. The thinking behind this, at least according to the original post about the topics on Goodreads, is that it often seems that most books recommendations about LGBTQ+ characters tend to involve M/M relationships and cisgender men (men who identify as men). I was surprised at first since I personally have not noticed this trend, but that may be because of the specific books I’ve read. I don’t think I’ve read very many books at all that feature M/M relationships. At first, I struggled to think of books for this topic at all, but the more I dug into my shelves on Goodreads, the more books I realized I’d read (especially recently) that fit.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and the official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

29904219I don’t know why, but I was absolutely convinced that this book was a graphic novel. I was surprised when my copy came from the library and I saw that it was actually a regular book with chapters. I picked up this book in the first place because I often saw it highly praised by CeCe on her Youtube channel ProblemsOfABookNerd. I love this book because it reminded me so strongly of The Incredibles. It focuses on a teenage girl named Jess Tran, who is trying to accept the fact that she may not have superpowers like the rest of her family, and she begins an internship which turns out to be for one of the city’s most famous villains, where she is working with her crush. Jess is bisexual and has a crush on her female coworker, and one of her best friends is a transgender boy named Bells. I thought both characters were very interesting, although the book itself was pretty predictable although still a lot of fun to read. I loved the character dynamics in this book and the way both Jess and Bells were represented. There is a sequel which focuses more on Bells, and I’m very interested in reading that one as well.

2) Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

35721231This is another book that has a main character who is bisexual, and it has a side character who is genderqueer. This book is about a girl named Mara whose twin brother Owen is accused of rape by one of Mara’s best friends. Mara struggles to come to terms with what her brother may have done, while also dealing with a breakup with her ex-girlfriend Charlie and coming to terms with a trauma from her own past. Although I found the whole storyline about the accusations against Mara’s brother surprisingly underwhelming, I really liked the way both Mara and Charlie were written. I think this may be the first book I’ve read, or at least the first that I remember, where a character who is bisexual explores their feelings for characters of both genders. I was also especially interested in Charlie’s subplot about how they viewed themself and the difficulty coming out as genderqueer to their parents. I had no idea about that plotline going into the book, but I thought it was very well-done.

3) Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

29414576I’m pretty sure this book fits this week’s topic, since the main character is romantic asexual. This book focuses on a teenage girl named Tash who produces an online modern adaptation of Anna Karenina. When her show is nominated for an award, Tash has the chance to meet her online crush Thom, and struggles with whether to tell him that she is asexual. I liked how Tash’s sexuality was one part of the story, but not the sole issue of the book. It also delved into online fame and the stress of dealing with people’s negative comments. I thought it was a refreshing story overall, and I thought Tash was an interesting character. It was great to have a YA book that had a small amount of romance involved, but had characters that were more focused on their hobbies and their futures. This was one of the first books I’ve read that features a character who is explicitly stated to be asexual and has their orientation openly discussed on the page. I really enjoyed this book overall, and I especially liked how even though her asexuality was mentioned and addressed, it was not the sole defining feature of Tash as a character.

4) When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

28220826If I’m honest, I didn’t quite connect with this book as strongly as I thought I was going to, but it was a very interesting one. This book is about Miel, a girl who grows roses from her wrists, and her childhood friend Sam, a transgender boy who paints moons to hang around the town. I thought the book was very beautifully written, and the style reminded me a bit of The Night Circus with how atmospheric it was. However, I found the plot a bit confusing and there were several occasions where I wasn’t completely sure what was going on, even though I did really like the writing style. I thought Miel and Sam were both very interesting characters, and I loved the relationship that developed between the two of them. I was especially interested in Sam and the way he was represented. His character was definitely a highlight of the book for me, and I wish I’d found the book in general a little less confusing since it was one that I was really looking forward to.

5) Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Maguire

25526296This was another of my most anticipated books. I rarely read novellas because I tend to find that they don’t develop the story or characters well enough in such a limited number of pages, but after hearing about this one absolutely everywhere, I had to give it a try. This book is about a girl named Nancy who arrives at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a place where children who returned from other worlds (ie. Narnia) are sent to learn to readjust to living in the real world. This premise alone was fascinating and enough to get my interest in the story. This book was also quite diverse. Nancy was asexual, and it was openly discussed on the page. There is also a side character who is transgender and his story was also very interesting and well-done. His storyline was actually one of the most interesting to me. I thought the book in general was beautifully written and compelling, and I didn’t want it to end! I’m definitely looking forward to reading the rest of the series.




Top Ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR

I was glad to see that this week’s prompt had a couple of different options. The topic was actually books to read on the beach/at the pool, but neither of these are a good fit for me. I actually hate going to the beach, due to a combination of overheating very easily and a phobia of deep water (since I’m not a great swimmer). If I go to a pool, I’d be going there just to swim. I hate touching my books with wet hands, so I wouldn’t bring a book with me to a beach or pool anyway. Instead, I decided to go for the second option, which was to talk about my summer TBR. Technically, any of these books could make great beach or poolside reads anyway. When I think of summer reads, they tend to fall into three main categories: light and fluffy YA, mysteries or thrillers, or series since I have time off in the summer to tackle some series. The majority of the books here are from my current library stack, so I will definitely be reading them this summer.

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

31931941This has been one of my most anticipated books since I first heard about it last year, but I kept putting off reading it at first because I felt like I wanted to “save” it to enjoy later. With my library closing for renovations, I decided to grab it while I could and make sure I could read it within the year. This book is about a shy girl named Eliza Mirk who is the creator of a very popular online webcomic, When the biggest fanfiction writer for her series transfers to her school, Eliza has to try to keep her identity a secret. Part of the appeal of this one is that it is mixed media, which is a format I tend to love. I also like that it is a book that focuses on how important Eliza’s online world is to her, especially as such an introverted character. I’m expecting that I will relate to her quite strongly. I’m actually starting this book today, and I can’t wait to get into it!

2) Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

31625039This book first caught my attention last year, when I saw the cover art while browsing lists of upcoming releases. This book came out at the end of January 2018, and it is about a girl named Alice who is asexual, but develops feelings for a boy named Takumi. Alice needs to decide whether to tell him that she is asexual. This book has been highly praised for having such diverse characters, and especially for having a main character who is asexual since that is not very commonly represented. I actually know very little about this book otherwise, but I’ve been looking forward to reading it anyway. Most of the reviewers I follow have given it pretty great reviews. I actually had trouble fitting this book into my challenge plans, since I had it in mind for a prompt requiring a romance involving a person of colour. This book was my first pick, but then I decided I really wanted to read The Wedding Date also, and had some trouble rearranging things to fit both in. Luckily I managed to do it, and I finished The Wedding Date just yesterday so I should be getting to this one pretty soon.

3) Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

29456598This was another of my most highly anticipated books, and I was immediately drawn to it because of the beautiful cover art! I think I mentioned this before, but it took me a ridiculously long time to realize that there actually aren’t any starfish on the cover despite the title. This book is about a half-Japanese girl named Kiko who is invited to tour art schools on the west coast with a childhood friend, right at the time when the rest of her life is starting to fall apart. This book is definitely not a light and fluffy read like I normally pick up in the summer, since it tackles quite a few very difficult topics. I have seen such amazing reviews for this one, and especially about the social anxiety representation. This is by far one of the books I’m most looking forward to, and the title alone makes me think of the ocean so it could work as a beach read on that alone.

4) The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily by Laura Creedle

33413929I feel like I’ve mentioned this book quite a few times before, but I finally have it on its way from the library. Although this one does tackle mental health as well, it definitely seems like a lighter read. This book is about Lily, a girl with ADHD, and Abelard, who has Asperger’s, who bond over their interest in the ancient The Letters of Abelard and Heloise. They fall for each other through their online conversations, and need to learn how to manage their differences in person. I always love stories that have a focus on social media and online relationships, and I think this one sounds especially interesting. I’ve seen it mentioned in reviews that the author drew from her own experiences with ADHD for Lily, so I’m expecting that to be quite strong but I’m a little nervous about the Asperger’s representation since that often seems to be difficult to do well. This book sounds like a lot of fun to read, and I can’t wait for my copy from the library to come through.

5) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

10194157I actually wasn’t intending to read this series at all this year– I’d planned to save it for next year since I have so many series in progress already. My plan was to just read Six of Crows for a particularly tricky challenge prompt that required a book involving a heist. As I started to look at some reviews, I saw quite a few people mention that although you technically don’t have to, it’s better to read at least Shadow and Bone (if not the whole series) before Six of Crows. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m planning on reading this trilogy anyway. I first heard about this series on the YouTube channel Thoughts On Tomes, and the Grisha character immediately sounded very interesting. I actually ended up rearranging my plans to fit these three books in, so I really hope they live up to my expectations! I consider these a summer read because I always find summer a great time to tackle series.

6) Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

25707621I actually have no idea how I first heard about this book, but it became one that I was most interested in reading this year. I had to request for my library to buy it just so I could find a copy. This book is about a woman named Sofia Khan whose boss convinces her to write an expose about what it is like to be Muslim and dating. This book just sounds like a lot of fun to read, while also taking on the topics of race and stereotypes. Sofia is a hijabi Muslim, which is a type of character I have rarely read about. It’s also one of the few books about a Muslim main character which does not seem to be strictly an “issues” book. I haven’t read many books about Muslim characters at all, but those I have read tend to focus on problems such as homophobia, terrorism, or racism. I know this book tackles some of those topics as well, but there seems to be a strong focus elsewhere as well. I don’t know why this book appealed to me so strongly, but I’m looking forward to reading it. I’ve also just discovered that a sequel came out last year, although that one has extremely mixed reviews. Either way, I’m looking forward to trying this one.

7) Still Me by JoJo Moyes

35791968I was not expecting to get a copy of this one before my library closes in two weeks! I was surprised to get a notification telling me that it was in, since I’d seen quite the wait list for it. This is the third book in the Me Before You series, following Lou Clark as she moves to New York, where she is working for the wealthy Leonard Gopnik and his wife Agnes. As Lou starts to mix with high society, she has to learn how to stay true to herself while still taking on the next adventure. Me Before You was by far one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years, and it was also a summer read for me. I read it in August 2016, and it has stuck with me ever since. I read the sequel After You toward the beginning of last year, and had no idea another story was coming. To be fair, I’m not really sure how much this book was really necessary, but I still love Lou as a character and I’m interested to see what happens to her next.

8) The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

1282954Liane Moriarty is another author that I tend to associate with summer reads, even though I’ve only read one of her books in summer. I read Big Little Lies while on vacation  in 2015 and it quickly became a favourite. I’ve since read a few more of her books, and I think her brand of contemporary mysteries make great summer reads. They are engaging enough to keep your interest, but also not too heavy. I could easily see myself bringing her books to read on a beach if I ever went to the beach. This book is about a woman named Sophie whose ex Thomas has come back into her life because she has unexpectedly inherited his aunt’s house on Scribbly Gum Island, which is also the home of a famously unsolved mystery. Sophie moves to the island where everyone seems to have their secrets, and (at least from what I can gather from the synopsis) starts to uncover what really happened. I actually find the synopsis for this one a bit confusing, but I’ve liked all the Liane Moriarty books I’ve read so far, so I’m willing to try it anyway.

9) Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

23131103This one definitely seems to be a summer read because it seems so fluffy. This book is about a woman named Evie who decides to take a break from social media and her smartphone, and reconnect with the world in real life instead. Like Sofia Khan above, this is another book that I discovered by chance on Goodreads and decided that I just had to try this year. I like how this book focuses on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to social media — instead of focusing on characters who are living most of their lives online, this one shows what happens when Evie tries to move away from that. I love how so many books over the last few years have focused on different topics relating to social media and technology, and its role in our everyday lives. I’m very interested in seeing how this one plays out, and I was really glad to find a copy of it on Book Outlet!

10) I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

23125266I have two of Clare Mackintosh’s books as discards from the library, but haven’t picked up either of them yet. I am specifically saving this one for an upcoming trip I have which involves a 5 hour train ride, since it seems like the perfect book to read uninterrupted. It feels like a lot of people tend to associate thrillers with with fall or winter because of the darker themes, but I’ve often associated them with summer since I tend to get very absorbed into them (at least the good ones), and want to read most of it at once. This book is about a woman named Jenna Gray, who moves to the Welsh coast for a fresh start, but she is haunted by memories and grief from a night that changed her life. Like most thrillers, the synopsis is incredibly vague but this book has received such amazing reviews. My mom has read at least two (possibly even all three) of Clare Mackintosh’s books, and she’s highly recommended all of them to me. It looks like it will be a great book to pass the time with on the train.


Reader Struggles: Meme Mini-Series (#12)

Over the years, I’ve become a lot more picky about keeping my books in good condition. In all honesty, I think it started around the time I started buying books for myself, since I started to realize just how expensive books really were. When I was younger, I was absolutely obsessed with library book sales and I would fill as many bags as I could with as many books as possible. My parents encouraged this, and even encouraged me to grab books that I was on the fence about. The philosophy was always to add it to the bag, since we paid by the bag anyway, and if I didn’t like it, I could always donate it back later. This posed a struggle of its own kind since I have a really, really hard time giving up books, but I did eventually clean out my closet and got rid of quite a few that I knew were just never going to happen. With these book sales, it never mattered much what kind of condition the books were in. I preferred if they looked new if possible, but I was more interested in the contents and I filled my shelves with many badly damaged books. Over time, I started to get more picky, and even started to hate dog-earing my pages.


When I was younger, I had no problem dog-earing my books. It’s a bit funny actually since I never had any shortage of bookmarks, but I was the kind of child who would collect folders, bookmarks and notebooks because of the pictures (usually cute animals) and then be afraid to use them because I didn’t want them to get ruined. I remember going to so many Scholastic book fairs at school and I always got bookmarks. I dog-eared the pages of my books up until about sixth grade, when a classmate suddenly asked me why I was doing that “because it ruins the book.” Being the socially awkward kid that I was, I didn’t really have an answer and it made me realize that he was right. I’m not sure why he cared if I’m honest, since as far as I know that boy was not really a reader and didn’t care much about books. I have no idea what made him decide to comment, but it stuck with me. I started to be very hesitant to dog-ear my own books because I didn’t want to damage them, and that eventually translated over to all books.

The picture above is definitely more extreme than I am — while I don’t understand why people would want to dog-ear their books, I would never confront people about it unless they were borrowing one of my books. I don’t care at all what people choose to do with their own books. I personally would never annotate my books, but I know a lot of people love to do that. I hate any writing or highlighting in my books and find it extremely distracting, but I can see why other people like it — it makes it so much easier to remember favourite quotes or ideas. I might internally cringe when I see someone treating their books roughly or dog-earing pages, but I wouldn’t say anything. The more I started to buy brand new copies of books of my own, instead of the second-hand copies from the library sales, the more I wanted to keep my books looking nice. In theory, I recognize that the contents of the book are much more important than the appearance and there is also something great about books that are obviously well-loved, but I also want my books to stay in good condition. There is nothing more frustrating to me than books where pages are falling out or covers coming off. In the past year, I’ve eased up a bit since I started buying books from Book Outlet, but I still cringe a bit when I receive a copy from them that isn’t in great condition.

Top 5 Wednesdays: Favourite Fathers/Father Figures

Since many of the books  I read are YA contemporary or fantasy, it can be pretty rare to find books with strong and interesting parents. I find in many of the books I read, the parents don’t get along very well with the main characters, or else they are virtually non-entities in the story, mentioned only in passing. Last year, toward Father’s Day, Top 10 Tuesdays had a freebie topic, which I used to talk about some of my favourite fictional fathers, both in books and on TV/movies. I was glad to see this topic come up again since I’ve read a few books with memorable father figures recently, although it was a little more challenging than I expected to find new characters.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and the official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Sirius Black from Harry Potter

siriusblack_wb_f5_siriusandharrytalkingduringfightindepartmentofmysteries_still_080615_landLast year, I picked Arthur Weasley as a favourite father figure, but the more I think about it, the more I realized how many great father figures there were in this series in general. Sirius Black may not have always been the best example for Harry because of his tendency to be a little reckless, but there was no denying how deeply he loved Harry and that he genuinely wanted the best for him. Sirius would do absolutely anything to protect Harry, including breaking out of Azkaban and later rushing into the Department of Mysteries when he thought Harry might be in danger. He was one of the first people to offer Harry a real home, and the two of them bonded so quickly. He always did his best to make himself available to give Harry advice and support him, and did everything in his power to make sure Harry was not only safe, but also happy.

2) Isaac Grant from Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

24909347I finished off this series very recently, and I was blown away by it! It’s rare that I read sci-fi at all and I’m not usually a fan of books that are set in space, but this series was amazing. I think a huge part of why I loved this series is because I absolutely adored the main characters. Isaac Grant is the father of protagonist Kady Grant, and he takes on a larger role as the series progresses. By the third book, he has become a kind of father figure to the whole group, and especially has bonded with Ella. He was a great character in his own right, and I love how he seemed to unofficially adopt the rest of the cast and look out for them the same way he looks out for Kady. He doesn’t hesitate to take on the responsibility, and his interactions with the teenagers are so much fun to read. He was such an endearing character in general, and a great addition to the books.

3) Brimstone in Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112It’s kind of funny that last year, I felt this book tended to get overlooked among all the other series I started, and now it’s been mentioned twice this week alone. I loved this book just as much as the other YA fantasy series I started last year, yet somehow it didn’t seem to get talked about as much. Brimstone is a father figure to Karou, raising her from the time she was an infant. Although he looks like a monster and is involved with pretty scary activities like collecting people’s teeth from around the world, he is also a great father figure to Karou and seems to be quite wise. I have only read the first book in the series so far, so I’m not sure how much of a role he has later on, especially given the events toward the end of the book. He protects Karou and gives her advice when needed, and he takes great care of her, doing his best to shield her from any harm. I found it really interesting how even though he seems like a monster, his interactions with Karou make him seem like a regular parent — scolding her for being late, questioning how well she can handle more responsibility, etc.

4) Russell in Two by Two by Nicholas Sparks

30002998If I’m honest, this is probably the least memorable of all the characters on this list, but I felt like Russell deserved special mention because I very rarely see books that focus on single fathers. Russ is left to raise his 5-year-old daughter, London, alone after his wife suddenly decides to divorce him after returning to work. I loved the relationship that we got to see between Russ and his daughter, although his ex-wife was an incredibly frustrating and selfish character. This book really successfully depicted the breakdown of a marriage and the struggles of trying to co-parent a child with an ex-wife. One of my favourite parts of the book was how Russ took his daughter out for a “date night.” Their relationship was so sweet, and although this was not my favourite Nicholas Sparks book, I really enjoyed the father-daughter relationship.

5) Henry’s father in Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

31952703Although I just finished this book recently, I’ve gone blank on what this character’s name was or if his name was ever mentioned. This was one of a few YA books that I’ve read where the character’s family members played a significant role. Henry’s parents owned Howling Books, a bookshop with the unique feature of a Letters Library, where customers can’t purchase the books, but instead are encouraged to write or draw in them and leave letters to others. The Letters Library was started by Henry’s dad, and it is such an amazing idea! Although I personally hate to write in books and find it incredibly distracting to have notes written in them or pages highlighted, I think it would be amazing to have something like this available in real life. One of the things I really loved about both of Henry’s parents is how they actively involved the whole family in decision-making. When it came time to decide whether to keep the bookshop or sell it, Henry and his sister were given as much say in the decision as the parents. I loved the relationship between Henry and his dad, and just his dad’s personality in general. His father spent most of the book organizing a project to document the Letters Library to make sure what people had written was preserved in case the bookshop was sold, and it obviously held a lot of sentimental value to him. He may not have been a huge character in the story, but he was definitely one of the more memorable YA parents.

Top 10 Tuesdays: Books that Awaken the Travel Bug In Me

I think this is the first time that I’ve been genuinely stumped by a Top 10 Tuesday topic. Despite trying to think of books that fit for several days now, I still couldn’t really come up with anything definite. I think what it comes down to is that I generally don’t have that much of a travel bug. There are several countries that I’d love to see at some point, but none that really motivate me enough right now to actually go ahead and book a trip either. What makes picking books for this week’s prompt even worse is that I’m not a huge fan of travel descriptions in books, nor are the places that I’ve read about ones that I’d really want to travel to. Many of the books I’ve read are set in Australia or England, which don’t necessarily seem all that different from Canada or the US. I’ve also read quite a few books set in Africa, the Middle East, or various Asian countries, but the nature of the specific stories that I’ve read often don’t make the country seem particularly appealing to visit. I’ve done my best to come up with a list of books that have a setting that I might be interested in visiting, but this is easily one of the most difficult prompts I’ve had!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

1) Tales from Gombe by Anup Shah and Fiona Rogers

21563972I think this is the one book on the list where I can truly say that I would love to visit the setting, at least in theory. I’ve always been fascinated by the great ape studies, and especially Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees at Gombe. This book consists of just over 300 pages, most of which are absolutely stunning photos of the chimpanzees in their natural habitat with captions describing their behaviour and personalities. There are also brief sections at the beginning of each chapter which offer more detail and anecdotes about specific chimps and what was observed. I honestly would have been just as happy with the book if it had been nothing but pictures. I don’t think I would really like to be at Gombe because I generally don’t do well in the wilderness like that, but I would love to be able to see the chimps in real life.

2) The Mango Season by Amulya Malladi

101384Even the character in this book is not sure how much she wants to travel! This book is about a young woman named Priya who left India when she was 20 to study in the US, and finally returns seven years later to visit her family, keeping her engagement to an American man a secret from them. Given that Priya herself was reluctant to return, it didn’t seem like the book offered the most flattering impression of India in general. Most of what I remember is that it was described as unbearably hot and not very clean. However, I did enjoy the descriptions of Indian food and the window into the culture that the book offered. I enjoyed the story overall and the ways several of the characters developed through the book and chose to stand up for themselves and their choices. It didn’t exactly make me want to visit the country, but it at least got my interest in the culture.

3) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

8490112I’m not 100% sure it makes sense to include a fantasy book on this list, since I’m not sure how realistic the setting was, however this book made Prague sound incredible! This book is about a 17-year-old art student named Karou who lives in Prague and was raised by chimaera who collect teeth in exchange for wishes. I have absolutely no idea what Prague is really like but I loved the descriptions of the art world that Karou was involved in, as well as her visits to other countries including Morocco and Paris. I thought Laini Taylor did an amazing job at describing each place and blending whatever elements of them that are real in with the fantasy world that she created. I’m definitely interested in visiting some European cities and countries in real life, and although Prague has never been on my list, it seems like one that may be worth looking into if I ever decide to really travel.

4) Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

6952I think I’m the exception here, but I have never had any interest in visiting Mexico. Several of my classmates and coworkers over the years have raved about their trips, but it has honestly never appealed to me. This book is about a young woman named Tita, who is forbidden to marry because of a tradition requiring her to remain at home to look after her mother until her mother’s death since she is the youngest daughter in the family. Tita falls in love with a man named Pedro, who decides to marry her sister instead in attempt to remain close to Tita. I found it interesting how food played such a significant role in the story, and although I did not find the recipes particularly interesting to read in detail, the food all sounded delicious. I often found myself thinking how great a dish sounded and wanting to try it, even knowing that it was not something I’d ever really eat since I tend to be pretty picky. I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book in general, but I like the way the author described the setting and the culture, especially through use of cooking.

5) Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

25756328I’ve mentioned recently how I found this book pretty disappointing overall, although I did like some of the descriptions of Italy. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of gelato — and I’m pretty quickly realizing that the best way to tempt me to travel seems to be through the food. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that. This book is about a teenage girl named Lina who travels to Italy after her mother’s death to meet her biological father for the first time, and soon discovers her mother’s journal about her own time in Italy. If I’m honest, I’m not a huge fan of books that are heavy on descriptions of characters exploring the city, but there was enough in here to reignite my interest in going to Italy one day. I think the biggest appeal of this book for me, aside from the gelato, was the secret bakery that the characters visited. If nothing else, I’d love to visit Italy just to try some of the delicious food!

6) What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera

25663781This is another example of a book where although I enjoyed the descriptions of the country, I don’t think I’d ever want to go there. This book is about a young woman named Ganga from Sri Lanka who immigrates to America with her mother after a childhood trauma, the effects of which have consequences throughout her life that ultimately lead to one unforgivable act. The beginning of this book describe the main character’s life in Sri Lanka, which seems to be a kind of paradise with a beautiful landscape and a very interesting culture. I knew next to nothing about Sri Lanka before going into this book so I found it very interesting to read about the country and some of its history. I was also interested in reading about how the main character’s culture affected her experience in American when she and her mother moved there. I enjoyed this book a lot more than I expected, and although I’m not particularly interested in traveling to Sri Lanka, I think this book gave me a good taste of what it might be like.

7) An Age of License: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley

20775020This is a book I probably never would have picked up if it hadn’t been for my reading challenges. I chose it for a prompt requiring a travel memoir, a genre that generally does not appeal to me at all, because I’d read and enjoyed Relish, Lucy Knisley’s graphic novel about her life through food. This book documents her experiences traveling through several European countries, including Sweden and France. Although I didn’t enjoy this book as much as Relish, and I was a little disappointed to find that the illustrations in the copy I read were all black-and-white, I loved the storyline. I loved how Lucy Knisley addressed all the anxieties and challenges that go along with traveling to a place where you don’t speak the language, which is something I’d be very worried about! I especially enjoyed the discussion of the term “an age of license,” which Lucy first heard of in France, that seems to be an obscure phrase for a period of life where people are free to explore and figure out who they are. I thought this was a great message and a very relatable phrase for people of Lucy’s age. I think for that alone, I can say it sparked an interest in travel (although one that I have never followed through).

8) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

me-before-you-jojo-moyes-cover-195x300This is another book that I picked because of the whole spirit of travel, moreso than any specific setting. This book is about a young woman named Lou Clark who becomes a personal support worker for Will Traynor, a man who has become paralyzed after an accident. A huge topic in this book is how Will struggles with the fact that he believes he is no longer able to have the kind of life he has always valued, which included a lot of travel, extreme sports, etc. The bond that develops between Lou and Will was one of the most interesting relationships I’ve read in a long time, and the main reason I chose this book is because of how Will tries to encourage Lou to live her life to the fullest and get outside of her comfort zone to explore the world before deciding what she wants. That to me is the whole spirit behind the “travel bug.” It also helps that this book is set in England, which is one of the handful of countries I am most strongly interested in visiting at some point.

9) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

374147It has been a very, very long time since I read this book but it is still one of my favourites. I was absolutely blown away by this book when I first read it. It is the story of a woman named Sayuri who describes her life as a geisha, beginning when she was sold into slavery at age 9. This was such a powerful story, but is another example where I’m not sure the country comes off in the best light in terms of making me want to visit. To be fair, this book begins in 1929 and I know that Japan has changed considerably since then. The book offered very vivid descriptions of what life was like for Sayuri and the people around her at the time, and it was so easy to imagine being there. I loved how the book described the culture, and especially what it was like to be a geisha. I am long overdue for a re-read of this one. It’s books like this that sometimes make it tough for me to imagine traveling to a place since I tend to focus more on the characters’ experiences than on the setting itself, and I would definitely not want to have Sayuri’s life! This was still a fascinating book and a great window into Japan of the past, enough to interest me a bit in finding out what it is like there now.

10) The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

8I’m completely taking the easy way out on this last one, but considering how difficult this prompt was for me to begin with, I’m giving myself a free pass. Aside from wanting to travel to the Wizarding World in general, this was probably one of the first books that sparked my interest in traveling to England. As soon as I started reading this book, I was drawn right into the world and found it interesting to see what was different between Harry’s life and mine (I still haven’t figured out what a “knickerbocker glory” is!). The more the world expanded in the series, the more interesting it became and I loved how it started to incorporate wizards and witches from so many other countries around the world. I was never the type to believe I might actually stumble across a wizard if I went to England or any of these other countries, but the books definitely sparked my interest. At the very least, I’d be interested in traveling there now to see some of the places mentioned in Harry Potter and try out the Harry Potter-themed events, like the Warner Bros. studio tour and the variety of other attractions and tours available.






Monthly Recommendations: Audiobooks

Unfortunately, I don’t have very many recommendations for this month’s topic. I prefer reading print books over any other format, and audiobooks in particular are often tricky for me. I find I don’t focus on them very well and tend to tune out unless I’m doing something else at the same time. The problem is, when I do something else, it sometimes distracts me from properly listening anyway. I’ve listened to a few audiobooks because of my reading challenges, but given the choice, they are definitely not something that I would reach for. I’m also rarely in situations where listening to an audiobook would be feasible. My job is a 10 minute walk from my house, and I only have half an hour for lunch, where staff generally expect to socialize a bit, or we have to problem-solve things for the afternoon. I have prep hours during the week, but those are usually busy writing and I can’t listen to a story and write at the same time at all. There are only two audiobooks I’ve ever listened to that I’ve really enjoyed, so those are my two recommendations.

Monthly Recommendations is a Goodreads group created by Kayla Rayne and Trina from Between Chapters. Monthly topics cane be found on the Goodreads page here

1) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

2337265I listened to the audiobook of this one, narrated by Neil Gaiman himself. I had chosen this book for a prompt specifically requiring an audiobook, and I saw many people on Goodreads and elsewhere commenting about how amazing Neil Gaiman’s narration is. I thought that would help me focus on it better, and to an extent I was right. This book is about a young boy named Bod who is taken in by ghosts in a graveyard after his family is murdered, and the ghosts help protect him from the killer who is still after him. Although I still had some problems staying focused on the audio the whole time, I really enjoyed the story and the writing style. It was a perfect blend of darker themes and humour. I especially enjoyed reading about Bod’s interactions with the other characters, both living and dead.  Listening to Neil Gaiman’s narration really brought the story to life in a different way that just reading it might have. If I remember correctly, this was my first ever audiobook and although I’d like to read the story again in print because I do feel like I missed a bit when I lost focus, it was a great experience. The atmosphere and the style reminded me quite a bit of Harry Potter.

2) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (Narrated by Jeremy Irons)

7608This book was one of those classics that I’d always kind of wanted to read, but shied away from due to the subject matter. Again, I chose it because I had a prompt that required an audiobook and I chose it on the basis of the narrator alone — Jeremy Irons, who I mostly knew as the voice of Scar in The Lion King. I actually intended to read the print version of this book and found an audio version online, deciding to listen to part of it while waiting for my library hold to come through since I assumed I’d have trouble getting through this book otherwise. I was surprised to find that the book was a lot more captivating than I expected, and I credit a lot of that to Jeremy Irons’ narration. All I knew about this story going into it was that it was about a man named Humbert Humbert who falls in love with a 12-year-old girl that he calls Lolita, and eventually develops a relationship with her. I was fascinated by all the layers of self-deception Humbert piled up to justify his feelings and his actions. I was very impressed by the writing style of the book, especially some of the snarky commentary about a variety of day-to-day situations (ie. how noisy a “quiet” hotel room really is), and I thought Jeremy Irons brought the character to life brilliantly. I’m actually not sure I would have enjoyed this book anywhere near as much if I had just read it myself.

Top 5 Wednesday: Summer Reads (On My TBR)

I’ve never really been the type to think about books in terms of their season, although I have noticed a tendency to read more dark and creepy books toward Halloween. When I think of summer reads, I tend to think of light and fluffy contemporaries which is a little ironic since it is not necessarily what I would pick up. Since I tend to have some time off in the summer, I often use that time to read series or pick up longer or more dense books that I think might need more focus. When this topic came up last year (here), I struggled to come up with summer-themed books that I loved. Since then, I haven’t found any more that I can think of to add other than Noelle Stevenson’s Lumberjanes series. I’ve only read the first two books so far, but they were both a lot of fun. Instead, I decided to pick 5 summer-themed books that are still on my TBR.

Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and the official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.

1) Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

35998933I first discovered Vera Brosgol when I picked up her graphic novel Anya’s Ghost on a whim for my first ever reading challenge, and it ended up being one of my favourite books of that year. Be Prepared is her most recent release, which is a memoir of Vera’s experiences going to a Russian summer camp, which is very different from the summer camps her American friends got to go to. When I was a kid, I hated being sent to camp and that was only day camp. As a socially anxious child, I hated being in environments where I didn’t know anyone when everyone else seemed to already know each other and have their friend groups. I also hated being out in the heat, couldn’t swim, and had a horrible fear of bugs. I immediately thought this book looked interesting. I love Vera Brosgol’s art style, and the story looks like a lot of fun to read.

2) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

11071466I have never read any of Morgan Matson’s books, although I have a few of them on my TBR because I keep seeing so many rave reviews for them. I’ve always been a little on the fence about reading them because they seem to be the kind of YA story that skew a bit younger, and the further I get away from the target age group, the harder it is for me to relate to them. This book is about a girl named Taylor Edwards whose parents decide to take the family to spend one last summer together at their lake house after Taylor’s father gets some devastating news. While there, Taylor discovers that her former best friend and her first boyfriend are still there. I’ve been hesitant to pick up any of Morgan Matson’s books because they are quite lengthy for YA books, with most of them well over 400 pages. I will have to give at least one of them a chance at some point, and see if they really live up to the hype.

3) Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

17978160I read When We Collided a couple of years ago, and I enjoyed it but didn’t love it quite as much as I expected. I was interested enough in Emery Lord’s style to add several more of her books to my TBR, and this one is the most summer-themed. This book is about a girl named Reagan who has recently broken up with her boyfriend, and so has her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery. Lilah is about to go on a 24-city summer tour, which gives the girls the opportunity to get away and move on, but their plans are changed when Matt Finch joins them on tour as the opening act, and proves hard for Reagan to resist. To be honest, I’m not a fan of country music or of stories about teenage celebrities, but this one sounds pretty cute. I wouldn’t necessarily consider it high on my priority list, but I would like to give it a chance.

4) Nothing Happened by Molly Booth

32947061This book is a new release that just came out in May, and it is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing that takes place at summer camp. It is about two sisters, Bee and Hana, who have grown up at the camp that their parents own, and look forward to working there every summer. Bee is involved in a “will-they/won’t they” romance situation with fellow counselor Ben, and Hana is falling for another girl. I have never read Much Ado About Nothing so I have no familiarity at all with the storyline. This book seems like a very light and fluffy book, and I think the camp setting makes it a perfect summer read. It is a bit outside my comfort zone because although I enjoy YA contemporary stories, and often enjoy romances of any kind, I don’t necessarily relate to the camp setting. As I mentioned above, camp was never a huge part of my life, so I’m not sure how much I will enjoy the setting here.

5) Love, Life and the List by Kasie West

35068742Kasie West is another wildly popular YA author who I have never read, despite having several of her books on my TBR. Like Morgan Matson, I’ve always had the impression that her books skew toward a younger audience. This book is about a 17-year-old girl named Abby who gives herself one month over the summer to do 10 things to help herself become the kind of artist she’s always wanted to be. The “list of tasks to complete” trope is not something that I really reach for very often because I find those stories always tend to be pretty similar, but the story seemed pretty cute. I also liked that the synopsis mentioned that Abby’s trying to cope with her mother’s growing issues with anxiety. As someone who has close family members and friends who struggle with anxiety, I think it is great to have representation in books of what this might be like. Like many of the books here, this one is far from the top of my list, but given all the hype around Kasie West, I may have to give it a try.